Mountain Town News: Bears go hungry, scandal in Tahoe, Taos searches for snow
Park Record contributing writer
Bears look for food in this very warm winter
DURANGO, Colo. – Bears have been out and about in Durango and other towns in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. In Durango, the city has continued an emergency law that seeks to get residents to secure their trash so that it’s not an attractant to bears.
“It’s not winter out there, and yearling males are being spotted in alleys of Durango,” said City Councilor Sweetie Marbury in support of the law.
Last year, 25 bears were killed in Durango after running into trouble, notes the Durango Herald. Most of those bears got into trash, attacked livestock, or broke into vehicles.
In September, the city enacted a law that eliminated a courtesy warning for those who failed to secure their trash. Instead, the first offense produces a $100 fine, and each subsequent violation is worth $200. The law has netted 25 offenders.
A bear has also been wandering around adjacent to the ski slopes of Telluride, at a subdivision called Ski Ranches.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife points out that bears, although they normally den for the winter by mid-November, are not true hibernators. As such, they will get out during warmer spells in winter to look for food.
January has been 5.4 degrees warmer than the 30-year average, says the Herald, citing National Weather Service data. In addition, last year provided poor food for bears in the region.
Bryan Peterson of Bear Smart Durango said bear sightings during mid-winter used to be unheard of. Not so in recent years, “If bears are finding human food, they’ll stay out longer than normal,” he said.
Trump’s Tahoe dalliance, and Putin’s men in Aspen
ASPEN, Colo. – Mountain towns were in the news last week for salacious reasons. Most prominent was the report that a representative of Donald Trump had paid $130,000 to a former porn star in 2016, shortly before his election as president, to ensure she kept her lips buttoned.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the porn actress, Stephanie Clifford, known by her stage name “Stormy Daniels,” and Trump had an affair after they met at a July 2016 celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe. That was a year after Trump married his current wife, Melania. The Journal had previously reported that Clifford had been in talks with “Good Morning America” during the fall of 2016 about an appearance to discuss Trump.
Then there’s the case of multimillionaire Will Browder, who in July 2014 was leaving a conference held at the Aspen Institute when strangers approached him. The stranger tried to hand him a subpoena related to a criminal case brought by the Justice Department. Browder recoiled and sprinted for his car. He said that as one of the fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he thought the process servers might have been “KGB assassins.”
Or so was the testimony given to congressional investigators this past summer. The international intrigue came to light as the result of a transcript released by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. All of this has to do with the series of unsubstantiated reports about Trump’s alleged actions related to Russia before the 2016 election.
The Aspen component of the case is too complicated to be distilled into a few paragraphs. The Aspen Daily News competently told the story: https://www.aspendailynews.com/news/aspen-s-curious-role-in-the-russia-investigation/article_1affa5aa-f674-11e7-8788-575b8fcf24c4.html
The real simple message is that Aspen remains a meeting ground for those of power and influence. As a convener of conferences that draws a broad array of those players from Washington, New York and elsewhere, the Aspen Institute is without parallel in mountain resorts.
Aspen warily agrees to allow security measures
ASPEN, Colo. – Trucks carrying explosives have been used by terrorists to kill people in New York City, London, and in France. Could it happen in Aspen?
That disquieting thought had been parsed in detail as the town prepares to build a new police headquarters. Richard Pryor, the police chief, told elected officials that he’s not paranoid. “I don’t think people are necessarily out to get the Aspen Police Department.” Just the same, he said, security around the new building must be considered.
The federal government advises bollards, large-diameter trees, and a concrete bench. Bollards are sturdy, short vertical posts. Think of a fire hydrant but taller and narrower.
The Aspen Daily News reports that the council warily accepts the need for heightened security measures such as would be necessary to stop a Ford F-250 pickup barreling at 30 mph toward the new police building, but bollards seem to be off the list. Instead, there are to be less overt and still unspecified protective mechanisms. Federal standards are ‘”very un-Aspen-like. It’s not what we want,” said Councilwoman Ann Mullins.
1,000 a year ago in Jackson; how many marchers this year?
JACKSON, Wyo. – A year ago this Saturday, only days after President Donald Trump’s bombastic inauguration speech, women’s marches were held across the country, including in a few ski towns.
In Jackson, the march drew 1,000 people, impressive given the local population: 23,125 in Teton County. Teton County is more or less the same as Jackson Hole.
Another march is planned for this year. It remains to be seen whether this symbol of defiance will attract nearly as many.
Meanwhile, students gathered in the antlers-adorned town square in Jackson on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to talk about bridging divides. Students shared their thoughts, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide, as did elected officials.
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to recognize the broader concerns of all humanity,” said Town Councillor Don Frank.
Shipping container now sits atop Whistler garage
WHISTLER, B.C. – Can shipping containers solve the crunch in housing? That idea has been around for several years, and Whistler now has its first such unit.
The steel structure has two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen, reports Pique Newsmagazine, all of which sits atop a two-car garage in a residential neighborhood.
The owner, Mac Lowry, said getting building contractors lined up to do a stick-built structure can be challenging. This shipping container, produced by a company called Honomobo, provided certainty on timeline and costs. The units can cost between $100,000 and $300,000 and can be stacked on top of each other.
Like nearly all ski towns—and plenty of other towns, too—Whistler has a housing crunch. A task force recently produced a municipal goal of creating 1,000 resident-restricted beds in the next five years. Infill housing, meaning the construction of additional units within existing development, is seen as important in achieving this goal. Whether prospective neighbors of shipping units will accept them as one of the solutions remains to be seen, Pique observes.
Banff discussing how to protect historic buildings
BANFF, Alberta –Plans to tear down an older building in Banff has town officials talking about how to protect buildings considered important to the community heritage.
The building, ordinary or even dowdy in appearance, was a private school from 1922 to 1947 operated by Margaret and Henry Greenham. Cultural activities of the Greenhams here and elsewhere contributed to establishment of what is now called the Banff Center.
In 1944, the daughter of the British-born actress Vivien Leigh—who had become famous in 1939 for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”—was schooled there. There’s no evidence that Leigh herself spent much time in Banff. The daughter was the product of Leigh’s first marriage.
The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that town officials are talking about such things as density bonuses being provided to developers willing to spare destruction of important but aging buildings.
Wright-designed office building likely to topple
WHITEFISH, Mont. – No buyer has emerged with the $1.7 million asking price of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in downtown Whitefish. The structure will almost certainly be demolished, reports the Whitefish Pilot.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. The national designation, however, doesn’t preclude the building being demolished, said Barbara Gordon, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. “Most preservation work happens on the local level.”
The famous architect designed the 5,000-square-foot building in 1948. A three-story mixed-use commercial building has been approved as replacement.
Sign at site of fatality: Don’t text and drive
BEND, Ore. – A sign has been installed along a road in Bend with a simple message: “Don’t text and drive.”
The sign will be in memory of Forrest Cepeda, a 16-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle to a friend’s house in 2011 when he was hit by a 28-year-old man who was texting while driving. The driver was texting two people, one of whom was sitting next to him, shortly before hitting the boy, notes the Bend Bulletin.
Nationally, nearly 3,500 people were killed and more than 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Navajo now own chunk of land along Sangre de Cristos
WESTCLFFE, Colo. – The Navajo Nation has added another ranch to its holdings in south-central Colorado. Two recent purchases, the Boyer and Wolf Springs ranches, gives the Arizona-based people 28,844 acres along the eastern flanks of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The closest towns are Westcliffe, to the north, and Walsenberg, to the east.
The Wet Mountain Tribune says the Navajos find the land valuable because of its proximity to Tsisnaasjini, a mountain sacred to them as sort of a corner of their homelands. Colorado’s fourth highest mountain, it’s known to peak-baggers as Blanca Peak. It is seen most easily from the San Luis Valley, on the west side of the peak.
Jonathan Nez, the vice president of the Navajo Nation, told the Tribune that the high elevation of the ranch might be used to develop an athletic program. “We have some remarkable athletes on the Navajo Nation,” he said, “and this would be a great opportunity to train our youth and celebrate health and wellness.”
Dry winter in Taos a bad taste of what is to come
TAOS, N.M. – The weather story this winter in northern New Mexico is much the same as in other parts of the West, except perhaps more extreme. But the real story may be that this sort of warm and dry conditions may become more common continuing into the 21st century.
Taos Ski Valley had 15 of its 111 trails open as of last week, those being primarily the result of snowmaking. The ski area had received only 9 inches of natural snow in the prior two months, according to the Taos News.
La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean commonly create snow-shy winters for the more southerly resorts. But the long-term trend isn’t great either.
Climate models have predicted the Rio Grande—the river flows through Taos—will be among the areas hardest hit by warming temperatures during the 21st century. Put simply, the Southwest will get warmer and drier. Winters such as this will become more common.
“We would not blame global warming for three months of no rain in New Mexico … but we expect to see the trend throughout the century,” climatologist David Gutzler told the Taos News.
The Rio Grande originates in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. At its headwaters is the Wolf Creek Ski Area, which often leads Colorado ski areas in snow accumulation. The snowpack in the basin as of Jan. 11 was only 31 percent of normal, reported the Alamosa Valley Courier. The only basin in worse shape in Colorado was the San Juan, which includes Durango, which sat at 27 percent of normal.
From a Colorado perspective, the only silver lining – and a thin one at that – is that with so little water flowing in the Rio Grande, Colorado won’t have to worry about ensuring more goes downstream to meet the inter-state compact requirement governing the river’s allocations. “We can use the water we have in the San Luis Valley, but that’s not going to be a whole lot,” Craig Cotton, a state water engineer, told the Courier.
Inching along toward full legalization of marijuana
Any number of would-be entrepreneurs are ready to set up shop there and elsewhere, should the municipality drop the rope. For the time being, marijuana can be grown and sold for medicinal purposes at one site in Whistler, that being a service-oriented place called Function Junction.
In December, British Columbia announced that rules for sale and distribution of recreational cannabis would be similar to those for alcohol. Both substances would be governed by the same agency.
One policy expert told Pique that British Columbia is hewing to the approach taken by California, where very few stores have opened since legal sales began Jan. 1.
“But they’re expecting over the next couple of years that more and more will fall into the system and open up,” said Scott Bernstein, a policy analyst for the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.
Colorado in 2014 became the first state to allow legalized sales. Sales of recreational cannabis began on January 1, and stores in Aspen and Telluride were among the first. But other jurisdictions have been slower to allow sales.
A case in point is Grand County, which is where the Winter Park ski area is located. An action taken by county commissioners last week will end a moratorium on Feb. 28. After that, the county will consider applications for marijuana businesses, reports the Sky-Hi News. Marijuana can already be purchased in several towns within the county, however.
In southwest Colorado, San Miguel County continues to consider land-use code adjustments to better get a grip on over-cultivation of marijuana in otherwise legal grow operations. The area in question seems to be confined to Wright’s Mesa, where about 180 people are growing marijuana, says the Telluride Daily Planet.
Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Covautl last summer explained at a meeting that most people “over-cultivate,” giving them the goods to sell on the gray market. Growing the cannabis is legal, but they are selling it illegally, either in Colorado or other parts of the country.
“There’s a major issue about the folks who don’t have county or state licenses, who are basically doing these extended plant count grows under the pretense that it’s medical marijuana,” County Attorney Steve Zwick said.
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